Category SfP Bulletin December 1994

President's and Editor's Message

By Derek Paul and R. M. Baxter

It is with the warmest feelings that we greet you all as Christmas approaches. The past eighteen months have been difficult ones for the peace movement, but SfP has survived and is prepared to continue with its work, thanks to your support. This year we have been very generously supported by several of our members, which we now publicly acknowledge. However, the purpose of such support is not mere survival but to enable us to continue to do useful work, and we think you will find evidence of progress in this Bulletin.

Remember that this Bulletin is only one of two serial publications sponsored by Science for Peace. The other is our section of Peace Magazine. To keep in touch with the activities of Science for Peace and of the peace movement in general, you really need to read Peace Magazine. Gift subscriptions are available (see the notice below.)

We wish you all every joy in your solstitial celebrations, whatever they may be, and peace and happiness in 1995.

World Court Project Update

On 15 December the UN General Assembly voted to ask the International Court of Justice to give an opinion on whether or not threat or use of nuclear weapons violates international law. Despite attempts to block it by the known nuclear-weapons states, the resolution was adopted by 78 votes in favour, 43 against and 38 abstentions. Canada abstained!

(Canada also supported an earlier motion by France and Germany for no action on the resolution.)

In the House of Commons on 12 December, Charles Caccia (Liberal, Davenport) had questioned Canada’s proposed abstention:

“I am ashamed of the fact that Canada decided to abstain from the vote considering its fine, long and historical record . . . For the life of me I cannot understand why Canada cannot identify itself with non-aligned nations on a method related to nuclear arms and support this resolution to go to the International Court of Justice.”

The General Assembly’s request to the Court complements a case already in the Court on the legality of the use of nuclear weapons, which was put before it by the World Health Organization in 1993. The US, UK, France, Russia, Australia, the Netherlands and Germany have challenged the authority of the Court to rule on the WHO request, but at least 22 other countries have sent submissions to the Court supporting the case.

Dr. Elinor Powell, national president of Physicians for Global Survival (Canada) stated:

“A decision from the Court that the threat or use of nuclear weapons is illegal would place considerable legal, moral and political pressure on nuclear states to take seriously their obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to eliminate nuclear weapons.”

The Court will likely now request, for its consideration, legal briefs from member states of the UN.

Canadian co-founding organizations of the World Court Project include Science for Peace, Canadian Peace Affiance, Lawyers for Social Responsibility, Physicians for Global Survival (Canada), Project Ploughshares, United Church of Canada, Veterans Against Nuclear Arms, World Federalists of Canada.

The next step will probably be to ask the Canadian government to submit a legal brief which reflects Canadian public opinion, and argues that the threat or use of nuclear weapons is illegal.

New Book from Science for Peace

World Security: The New Challenge Edited by Derek Paul, Carl G. Jacobson, Morris Miller, Metta Spencer, and Eric Tollefson for Canadian Pugwash Group. Toronto : Science for Peace / Dundurn, 1994. 282 pp.

A review of this book, by Newton R. Bowles of the United Nations in New York, will appear in the January/February issue of Peace Magazine. The reviewer praises the book, which he says “not only combines rational urgency with informed insight, but even reads well”. He points out that the 13 essays in the book are “somewhat arbitrarily put into four categories: Towards a Sustainable Peace, Towards a Sustainable Society, Towards a Sustainable Environment, and Costs and Benefits”. He then goes on to comment on the individual essays, with a brief summary of the main points raised and occasional mild criticism.

His principal criticism of the book as a whole is that it lacks a serious discussion of why people behave as they do, and how behaviour can be manipulated and changed. He says Pugwash would benefit from the participation of behavioral scientists and some media hucksters. Nevertheless he concludes that “Pugwash is finding a new identity, an identity that includes and transcends security, a modern pilgrimage toward the commonweal of all peoples”.

It is most gratifying that this book, the first produced for Science for Peace by Dundurn Press, has been so well received by such a knowledgeable critic.

This book is available through the Science for Peace office. The price for members is only $12 plus $2 postage.

Forthcoming Book

United Nations Reform: Festschrift for the 50th Anniversary Edited by Eric Fawcett, Founding President of Science for Peace and Hanna Newcombe, Director of Peace Research Institute, Dundas to be published by March 1, 1995

The United Nations was designed for a world that is over. It is unable to respond adequately to the political, economic and environmental crises of the 1990s. Without reform, the UN will lack the credibility and capability to meet the challenges of the imbalanced and alienated world whose outline is now on the horizon of the 21st century.

Canadians have made unique contributions to the functioning of the UN in its first half-century, and the 25 distinguished authors and commentators writing here bring a wealth of wisdom and experience to their essays. Those fell into the following categories: the UN System, Peace and Security, Human Rights, Environment and Development, and International Law, each section being introduced by a commentary on the papers, with a Prologue by Geoffrey Grenville Wood (past President UNA-Canada) and Epilogue by Douglas Roche (past Ambassador for Peace at the UN).

The book is designed for the general readers who will gain considerable insight into how the UN operates (or fails to work) at present, as well as learning of proposals for its reform. It is at the same time suitable for courses in International Relations in the USA, UK, Australia, etc., as well as in Canada. To our knowledge this book will be unique in its nature and scope in this 50th Anniversary Year of the United Nations.

Noam Chomsky Lecture

Under the sponsorship of Science for Peace, the Student Christian Movement, and the Near East Cultural and Educational Foundation, Noam Chomsky delivered the Lois and John Dove Memorial Lecture on October 24, and a public lecture of October 25. This was sold out well in advance to a mixed but largely sympathetic audience. It was an outstanding fundraiser and it also undoubtedly served to make Science for Peace more widely known.

The title of his lecture was “The Middle East: Prospects for Peace and Justice”. He discussed the sorry history of the Middle East in the twentieth century, which he sees as a continuing attempt by Britain, and later the United States, to maintain control of the region and access to its resources, through the agency of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. The so-called “arms for hostages” deal, which began before there were any hostages, was an attempt to strengthen the Iranian military to enable them to carry out a coup to restore the Shah. He is not at all hopeful about the future of the Palestinians, and referred with approval to a statement of an Israeli friend likening the recent granting of autonomy to them in certain areas to the establishment of pseudo-autonomous Bantustans in South Africa during the time of apartheid.

Chomsky’s manner is extremely persuasive. His tone is well-bred and reasonable, with none of the truculence often displayed by members of the left. My initial reaction was that what he was saying was so obviously true that I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it myself. It was only on later reflection that I began to wonder if things could really be so simple, and if the western powers were really capable of such a prolonged and effective conspiracy to keep a large part of the world under their control. In spite of such reservations however I shall certainly look more critically in the future at what is written about this troubled area.

Minister's Defence Review Consultations: a debriefing after the latest sortie

SfP members will recall that, in preparation for last summer’s Defence Policy Review hearings, our Defence Policy Advisory Group prepared a brief, “Canada’s Security: Threats and Responses”. Its recommendations were ably presented to the Toronto hearings by Terry Gardner and Jim Prentice. It was obvious however that the members of the Review panel regarded those recommendations as outside their scope. Our brief addressed a basic reassessment of actual security threats; they were looking at minimal adjustments to the status quo.

We were therefore happy to be invited to send a delegate to meet personally with the Minister of Defence, David Collenette, in his series of follow-up Minister’s Defence Review Consultations. Such a consultation took place on October 13, and consisted of the Minister and five invitees. John Valleau represented SfP; the text of his opening statement is printed below.

You will see that the tack was not, this time, to stress our conclusions (which, being non-traditional, do after all require, if they are to be entertained seriously, a genuine re-examination of the situation we face).

Instead the idea was to define and seek agreement on the kind of question that needs to be addressed. The question we did propose seems quite unlike those to which the Defence Review seems to have limited itself; we believe that if accepted it would surely lead to answers not very unlike those of our brief. Of course only limited success was to be hoped for. The Minister did at least feel constrained to address the thrust of our presentation for some while. (Metta Spencer, an invitee for Peace Magazine but also a member of the SfP Board, played a helpful part in this discussion.) He even paid lip service to the aptness of our question. But old habits die hard: our question disappeared from sight when the Minister was able to turn, with relief, to discussing with his three conventionally military guests such vital questions as how many of the new frigates should be kept at sea at any moment (in view, as he admitted, of their having no obvious utility).

The Minister’s White Paper has just been presented to the House, and we can see that there is indeed still much to be done. We have to point out that what are the real and terrible threats to our security, and establish that for these threats there is no useful military remedy —- in fact we have to seize back from the military the word “security”.

Statement to the Minister's Defence Review Consultations

John Valleau spoke as a member of the Defence Policy Advisory Committee of Science for Peace

We appreciate very much this opportunity to discuss our views before the Minister.

I assume you have had the opportunity to read the statement prepared by the Defence Policy Advisory Committee of Science for Peace. The Committee arrived after long discussion at some rather radical proposals.

It is not my intention to list these proposals now (although I will be happy to respond to questions you may have about them).

INSTEAD I want to ask you to consider the process by which they were reached, because this seems crucial to our jointly arriving at fruitful paths towards real security.

The proposals represent the Committee’s attempt to answer the question it set for itself. I am willing to argue that they are reasonable answers to this question.

BUT whether they are the exactly optimum answers is FAR LESS IMPORTANT than knowing WHETHER THE RIGHT QUESTION was being asked.

It is certain that you cannot get useful answers unless you are asking the right question.

We have the impression that most of your respondents have been trying to answer questions rather different from the one we asked – questions narrow in scope and based on unexamined traditional attitudes. It would be reassuring to know that the Minister agreed on the nature of the question that needs answers.

Let me, then, try to STATE the QUESTION which we thought was the one that needed to be posed.

It was this:

“Given Canada’s stature in the world, its resources and capabilities, how can we use them most effectively to enhance our own security and the global stability on which Canada’s security finally depends?”

That seemed to us the right question to ask.

1. I hope you notice that it is an intensely pragmatic question, not one appealing to moral absolutes, nor to conventional slogans.asks only for an attempt to optimize our good effect, within whatever constraints may exist. This can lead you to some surprising conclusions, however, as we discovered.

2. Like any good question, it demands (and also largely prescribes) an analysis of the constraints and possibilities. Let me sketch briefly that analysis:

A) One must ask first what direct and immediate military threats there might realistically be to Canada’s territory. The answer: virtually NONE (always supposing the U.S. remains stable and friendly).

B) But this puts Canada in an absolutely UNIQUE POSITION, at least among the middle powers. If there is no immediate need for combat forces for the territorial defence of Canada, then the maintenance of such forces is desirable only if they are judged to be more effective in enhancing global stability than alternative initiatives. Our judgement was fmally that this was quite unlikely to be the case, and that Canada should instead be using its unique position to take the lead in learning how to assist in the non-violent resolution of conflicts and in addressing the causes of conflicts before they occur, rather than just coping with the consequences.

C) Canada’s long-run security depends on global stability in the face of the increasing strains of environmental degradation,burgeoning overpopulation and economic disparity. Our outlook must therefore be profoundly INTERNATIONAL in scope. Much of the response to these challenges lies in wide-ranging diplomatic and economic decisions outside the scope of the present examination of “defence policy”.

D) Nevertheless we proposed three “on-the-ground” initiatives requiring the high levels of organizational skill and of discipline that have characterized our armed forces. It is anticipated that many of the personnel of our present armed forces would wish to transfer their dedication and abilities to one of them. Two of the three we see as substantial contributions to protecting stability in the international scene; the third is especially Canadian:

1. Emergency corps: We propose that Canada should offer, as a contribution to the world, to maintain a substantial airborne unarmed corps able to provide emergency assistance within hours anywhere. This should include medical and engineering units and be able to provide aid in the form of emergency shelter, food, temporary infrastructure, etc. Environmental pressures will in practice erupt as local famines and epidemics, inability to cope with natural disasters, etc. Our assistance, besides being humanitarian, could help prevent such instances from turning into bloody conflicts.

2. Peacekeeping. We believe there is an important role for unarmed civilian peacekeepers, and that Canada should move in that direction (following an Austrian precedent). Such a corps requires special training quite different from combat training – in political skills, mediation, public health, etc. – and a high level of skill and courage. Canada is justly proud at having led in classical U.N. peacekeeping; it is now time to take the lead once more in a new stage.

3.Coast Guard & Rescue. Given Canada’s geography and its responsibilities in the Arctic and to the fisheries, it needs a greatly enlarged Coast Guard service, with much improved equipment including powerful icebreakers and modern technology. I have mentioned these particular proposals because they address what should in our view “become of” the present Defence establishment, preserving its contribution to the nation. There are many other proposals in our statement (including the progressive elimination of arms exports) and we envisage a gradual conversion path in which our combat-capability is phased out, over a period of a few years, in favour of alternative international contributions.

The proposals in the Statement offered by the Committee are under continuing discussion and refmement by Science for Peace, and indeed a membership meeting in this regard will take place on November 11. I REPEAT, however, that the precise details of those proposals seem to us less urgent than agreement on the nature of the QUESTION we should be addressing, together with your Government, namely: “Given Canada’s stature in the world, its resources and capabilities, how can we use them most effectively to enhance our own security and the global stability on which Canada’s security filially depends?”

A Brief Review of a Brief's Review

Peacekeeping: aspiration vs. activity; “classical” vs. “current” or “second generation”; military vs. civilian; armed vs. unarmed.., how many ways can it be cut? How does one set standards? What is a “clear and practical mandate”? “Clear” to whom? – To the Secretary-General, the Security Council, the field commander? – And clear for how long? Mandates seem to creep, cease-fires to expire. Rigid prose, fluid circumstance.

Under Henry Wiseman’s expert guidance-cum analysis, the multidimensional and amorphous nature of peace-keeping (a household word!) was explored by a group of 21 members and friends of Science for Peace assembled around the big oval table at Croft Chapter House, University College, U of T, on the evening of 11 November. As is usual in any successful enquiry, we emerged with more questions than answers.

The point of departure was the thirteen-page brief Canada’s Security: Threats and Responses, prepared and presented in June `94 to the joint parliamentary committee reviewing Canada’s defence policy by the Defence Policy Advisory Group of Science for Peace. The goals of the gathering were self-education, the identification of those views or recommendations set forth in the brief which are widely shared within Science for Peace, and preparation for an informed and coherent response to the DND’s forthcoming white paper.

[The need for education was manifest: Not only some of its critics but some of its authors were found to be imperfectly aware of the brief’s contents!]

Al Slavin, whose chairmanship made the evening a success, early described some imaginative group dynamics designed to assist us in identifying and perhaps ranking the most favoured ideas. But the group resisted these. Al gracefully conceded, and deftly steered us through the long evening in sustained plenary session.

It is possible that out of the November 11th seance may come a benefit unsought by its planners, but one which Henry Wiseman appeared to urge and did provide substance for: a Science for Peace Working Group — possibly a subgroup of that on UN Reform — on Peacekeeping Reform. Whether this comes about depends, of course, on you. So does the preparation of a response to the White Paper.

In fact, everything does.

Derek Paul has contributed the following comment:

Subsequently we noted the following paragraph published in The Globe and Mail editorial 17 November, in an article devoted to foreign policy:

“Defence: The challenge here is paring priorities to two: defending national sovereignty and maintaining a commitment to peacekeeping. Both would see an end to a general-purpose armed forces. This means substantial reductions in naval equipment and possibly the elimination of the operational fighter aircraft fleet. It should also mean better equipment and more training for an army suited to international peacekeeping.”

This looks to us very much like the position presented to the Parliamentary Committee reviewing defence policy by Terry Gardner and Jim Prentice, two of the authors of the brief Canada’s Security: Threats and Responses, submitted to that Committee. It should be noted that the Committee gave this rather novel position short shrift at the time; but perhaps the position is rapidly acquiring new adherents.

Full text version of all articles from SfP Bulletin December 1994. A PDF edition is also available.

Science for Peace Bulletin | ISSN 1925-170X (Print) | ISSN 1925-1718 (Online)